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Red Auerbach, Bill Russell, Paul Pierce
Left: Photo from the Bettmann Collection via Getty Images, Right: Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics are set to face off against the Golden State Warriors in their quest for the franchise’s 18th world championship. Is there a word that’s greater than “historic”? There has to be, right? Could it be “mega-historic” or “historiclier”?

Anyways, this team has been the class of the National Basketball Association for the league’s entire history. An organization few can compare themselves to, but everyone emulates. Hyperbole? I think not. The Celtics are, for lack of a better term, the balls.

And with their current roster of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Al Horford and Robert Williams, coached by first-year head coach Ime Udoka, playing for the franchise’s 18th NBA Title, it’s easy to see how much talent there is in Boston. After all, when winning the NBA Finals essentially meant you had to beat the Celtics in the playoffs, the C’s are gonna have some solid players on their squads.

And with any team that has sustained such monumental success, its history is filled with legendary players. A team that warrants an all-time starting lineup filled with Hall of Fame legends and retired numbers. Let’s do this.

The All-Time Boston Celtics Starting Lineup

Center: Bill Russell 

Bill Russell and Celtics Coach Red Auerbach Celebrate a Celtics Championship
Photo from the Bettmann Collection via Getty Images.

Related: Bill Russell’s 30-Point, 40-Rebound Game 7 Won an NBA Title for the Celtics

  • 13 Seasons as a Celtic
  • 15 points per game, 23 rebounds per game, 4 assists per game
  • 12x All-Star
  • 5x MVP
  • 11x Champion
  • 3x All-NBA 1st Team
  • All-Defense 1st Team (1969, first year)
  • NBA 75th Anniversary Team

I mean, there’s not a lot to say here. Russell won the NBA championship in 85 percent of the seasons he played, even winning two titles as a player/coach. No other player in NBA history has won more rings than Bill Russell. He won more rings than he has fingers. Just take a minute and re-read that last sentence.

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Russell was also the epitome of the phrase “defense wins championships” as he had far more title success than his stats-driven rival, Wilt Chamberlain. By all accounts, Bill Russell might just be the best player to ever start an NBA game.

The fans of Boston sports teams have recently felt blessed to be able to root for Tom Brady and his six Super Bowl rings. Russell’s resume’s lone oddity is he never won a Finals MVP. This is because the award was not given out until his final season. But it’s also now named after Russell so I think he came out okay. That’s a different level of superstar status.

Power Forward: Larry Bird 

Larry Bird shoots a ball during the 1988 NBA three point contest.
Photo by Walter Iooss Jr. / Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Related: Larry Bird Could Barely Walk, But Boston Needed “Larry Legend” One Last Time

  • 13 Seasons as a Celtic
  • 24 points per game, 10 rebounds per game, 6 assists per game
  • 12x All-Star
  • 3x MVP
  • 3x Champion
  • 2x Finals MVP
  • 9x All-NBA 1st Team
  • NBA 75th Anniversary Team

The Legend. Bird’s No. 33 jersey is the fifth highest-selling in league history. He continued the history of the Celtics franchise in the ’80s after their dominant ’60s and successful ’70s. He also had one of the best lines in sports history when he asked the other participants of the 1988 three-point contest, “Who’s coming in second?”

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Bird’s rivalry with Los Angeles Lakers and Magic Johnson has been said to have rocketed the NBA into the level of popularity it still enjoys today. Continuing the theme of trophies named after Celtics, Jayson Tatum (another Celtic!) just won the Eastern Conference Finals MVP in its inaugural year of being named after Bird.

Small Forward: John Havlicek

Focus on Sport via Getty Images
  • 16 Seasons as a Celtic
  • 21 points per game, 6 rebounds per game, 4 assists per game
  • 13x All-Star
  • 8x Champion
  • 1974 Finals MVP
  • 4x All-NBA 1st Team
  • 5x All-Defense 1st Team
  • NBA 75th anniversary team

Can you be an NBA Hall of Famer and part of the 75th Anniversary Team, and then also be underrated? If that’s possible, then John Havlicek has pulled it off. Hondo was an All-Star in almost every season of his career and won the NBA title in half his seasons. Only his former teammates, Russell and Sam Jones, won more championship rings.

Havlicek also played more games and minutes in Celtics green than any other player in the team’s history. He also invested in the Wendy’s fast-food franchise early and likely saw a nice return on that move.

Shooting Guard: Paul Pierce

Pul Pierce helps raise his #34 to the TD Garden rafters.
Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Related: How Paul Pierce?s Famous Wheelchair Game Became Known as “Poopgate”

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  • 15 Seasons as a Celtic
  • 22 points per game, 6 rebounds per game, 4 assists per game
  • 10x All-Star
  • 2008 Champion
  • 2008 Finals MVP
  • NBA 75th Anniversary Team

Shooting guard could have gone to multiple different players. Sam Jones, Danny Ainge, Reggie Lewis. The list goes on. However, there’s one man who stands above the rest: The Truth, Paul Pierce.

Pierce’s accolades are a bit less impressive than his teammates in this lineup. However, Pierce was still the dominant Celtic for a decade and a half. He was the MVP of the only championship team Boston fielded from 1987 to the present. Pierce’s Celtics could have won more than just their sole ring, but much like the Utah Jazz of the 1990s, those Celtics kept on running into iconic teams: the Kobe Bryant Lakers and the LeBron James Miami Heat.

Pierce also sees his name all over Celtics record books. He’s No. 2 in points, No. 7 in rebounds, No. 5 in assists and  No. 1 in steals. He also has the third-most win shares and second-highest value over a replacement player in team history.

Point Guard: Bob Cousy

Bob Cousy drives to the hoop as a member of the Boston Celtics
Photo from the Bettmann Collection via Getty Images
  • 19 points per game, 5 rebounds per game, 8 assists per game
  • 13 Seasons as a Celtic
  • 13x All-Star
  • 6x Champion
  • 1957 MVP
  • 10x All-NBA 1st Team
  • NBA 75th Anniversary Team

Cousy had 28 assists in a game for the Celtics in 1959. There’s not a lot more to say about that, it’s just really impressive.

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In a franchise filled with top-tier all-time talent, Cousy has the advantage of being the hands-down best at his position. There have been some great forwards and shooting guards, but no point guard in Celtics history comes close to Cousy’s accomplishments. There’s also an award named after Cousy for the best point guard in college basketball.

In his post-playing days, Cousy made a cameo in the movie “Blue Chips” where he didn’t miss a free throw.

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Sixth Man: Kevin McHale

Kevin McHale ties his sneakers before the tipoff of a Celtics game.
Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images
  • 13 Seasons as a Celtic
  • 18 points per game, 7 rebounds per game, 2 assists per game
  • 7x All-Star
  • 3x Champion
  • 1987 All-NBA 1st Team
  • 3x All-Defense 1st Team
  • 2x Sixth Man
  • NBA 75th Anniversary Team

Considering McHale’s two Sixth Man Awards he’s the perfect choice to be the first player off the bench here. McHale being a bench player for a large part of his career is likely surprising. He did only start about 40 percent of his career games though.

This makes what he accomplished all the more impressive, especially his seven All-Star appearances. McHale even found the time to guest star on “Cheers” during his Celtics career. Some would say he also did the Celtics a solid by trading Kevin Garnett to Boston, but we won’t dignify that type of comment here.

Off the Bench

  • Robert Parish
  • Sam Jones
  • Dave Cowens
  • Kevin Garnett
  • Dennis Johnson
  • Tom Heinsohn

More: How Ime Udoka Turned the Celtics Around Overnight

Terry is from Massachusetts and is a passionate fan of the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins. He also will admit he only pays attention to Syracuse basketball when they're good. If there's a Twitter trade rumor even remotely associated with one of his teams, he's likely fallen for it. Finally, he believes 100% that if the Celtics had beaten the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals they would have swept the Thunder in the Finals.
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